The black birds arrived yesterday! Yes, they arrived in the middle of a snow storm. It looks more like winter than spring. But, there is no denying spring is here when you have thousands of blackbirds singing praises to God Almighty. I just love them! Although I must admit I didn’t always. I used to have one that would chase me every day as I rode my bike to Little League practice. I did not like that bird! There are other signs, too. Even though the temperature is well below freezing, there are puddles in my driveway. The sun is powerful and will one day beat back all the cold air. Soon, it will warm up. Until then, I’m enjoying all the changes.
A couple things were rattling around my head over the weekend. Not sure if I will get to both today or not. The first one is that God has made me aware that I have not been seeking him nearly like I should when making decisions. Oh, I think I do, but I don’t. I think about God all day long, but I’m still making decisions without actually stopping to ask, to really ask, for guidance. It’s like praying without engaging in prayer. How often do I listen to someone pray while my mind is off who-knows-where? Let me take that another step. How often do I pray while my mind is a thousand miles away? Too often, that’s how often. Another form of that is thinking about God yet not even including him on a decision. It’s like talking over a family vacation with your spouse but not even asking where s/he would like to go. Ugh.
My guess is that this isn’t always a big deal, and certainly I could get ridiculous about things. For example, “Which shoe should I put on first, Lord? My left or my right?” On the other hand, going it solo can have serious consequences, like I read about with Joshua over the weekend. If you recall, Joshua was granted command of the Israelites after Moses died outside the Promised Land. Moses died there because he didn’t give credit to God for striking a rock to produce water. Remember? And, he died after every single one, except two, of the adults died in the wilderness. They weren’t allowed into the Promised Land, either. Why? They didn’t believe God. Lessons to be learned there, too.
Anyway, Joshua assumed command, and God gave him great encouragement in the words he spoke to Joshua. In addition, God performed the miracle of stopping the Jordan River, so they might cross on dry land. God also gave them the city of Jericho in a manner that only God could have done. Pretty cool stuff. Then came the city Ai. That one was different. Why? Because God did not send them into battle nor did Joshua inquire about it. Joshua just went ahead and went ahead. Let’s take a look.
Joshua 7:2-4a Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai…, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attach Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about 3,000 men went up there from the people.
What happened next? Ugly, that’s what.
4b-5 And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
So, what was Joshua’s reaction? Probably like yours or mine would have been – over-reaction. Let’s look at this.
v. 6-9 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”
Wow. Joshua didn’t think this one through. He immediately went to the dooms-day scenario. In all honestly, I do that far too often. Something doesn’t go as I plan, so I read all sorts of stuff into it. I come up with all sorts of possibilities, the next worse than the first. So, what does God say to him?
V. 10-13a The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up!
Joshua was the one who wrote this book. Notice he used an exclamation point on both “Get up!” commands. What do you suppose it was like to hear God say that? Imagine it. Joshua, instead of looking at himself, or themselves, instead went directly to blaming God. As it turned out, someone stole a bunch of loot that God forbade of them. Joshua gave the command, and yet he didn’t even think to question whether or not they had done something wrong. Instead, he blamed God.
Have I ever done that? You bet I have.
So, how could have things been different? Well, sometimes people do things beyond our control, as in this case. God ended up revealing and destroying the entire family responsible for this. It appears to have been one man, yet God destroyed the whole family and possessions. Apparently, the whole family knew and covered up the crime. We have a clue for this when God said to Joshua, “they have transgressed….” So, it was not an individual act.
Again, how might things have been different? First and foremost, Joshua didn’t inquire of the Lord before proceeding to Ai. Had he, God would have revealed the family’s sin so that he might have taken care of that business first. But, he didn’t. I would think this would have been a very important lesson to Joshua because it came at the price of 36 lives, lives he was responsible for. I’m sure Joshua never forgot that.
Second, Joshua blamed God, even though God had promised to take him into the Promised Land and conquer those nations. Right? That promise had warnings. I know it’s long, but this promise of God’s is important. Joshua missed this one, big time.
Joshua 1:1-9 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
That’s pretty plain to me, yet Joshua forgot it. Let’s not forget that God forgave Joshua and Joshua accomplished all that God promised. Joshua caused himself a great deal of problems by forgetting to seek God then blaming God for the consequences. Do I forget God’s promises for me when things don’t go as I plan? It wasn’t Joshua’s sin that stopped the show, yet it was Joshua’s sin that caused him to forget his first order of business – to seek the Lord.
I’m going to spend some time thinking about God’s promises to me. Tell you what. If I replace “Joshua” with “Scott” and Promised Land with Heaven in verses 1:1-9, I have the same promise from God – with the same warning. Am I making my life harder for myself by making the same errors as Joshua? I should think so. I’m going to try learn a thing or two from all this.
Father, I thank you for the lesson you have taught me. Please, don’t let me be book-smart and street-stupid on it. I pray that I may apply this to my life, starting this very moment. Forgive me for forgetting to seek your guidance. Forgive me for purposely avoiding your guidance and then blaming you for the results when I should have blamed myself. Father, your promises still are valid. In these I shall set my attention. My sin is forgiven. Romans 8:1 applies. It’s time to move forward – with you. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers